Blog Archives

2023 New Releases for SWW Authors #2

Sue Boggio, Sara Frances, Larry Kilham, Mare Pearl, and Vicki Kay Turpen are dedicated authors who represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW). Their 2023 releases couldn’t fit in this year’s interview schedule, but look for new interviews or updates for most of these authors in 2024.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2023 releases is included at the end of this post.

Hungry Shoes: A Novel (University of New Mexico Press, September 2023) by Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl. Maddie and Grace meet in an adolescent psychiatric unit after each has committed desperate self-injurious acts in response to years of abuse, neglect, and chaos. Together they navigate the surreal world of their fellow patients while staff provide nurturance and guidance to support their healing journeys. With the help of veteran psychiatrist Mary Swenson, Maddie and Grace come to terms with their pasts and discover the inner fortitude they need to create futures filled with empowerment and hope.

You’ll find Sue and Mare on their website at

Unplugged Voices: 125 Tales of Art and Life from Northern New Mexico, the Four Corners and the West (February 2023) is an illustrated four-color coffee table 324-page compendium of verbal narratives collected and edited by Sara Frances. Make a connection to 125 unique western personas, each in a five-minute read. Stories abound everywhere; but the threads of nature in and of The West, its independence, resilience, creativity, and beauty, weave together in unique revelation of life and land. Theses narratives are told as if the taleteller were sitting in front of you, across the kitchen table, around the campfire, on the front porch, or under the stars.

Look for Sara on her Amazon author pages here and here.

Himalayan Adventures: India & Nepal (March 2023) by Larry Kilham. This is a captivating account of the author’s adventures hiking and trekking in India and Nepal. The author was an international sales manager who lived for climbing mountains in exotic lands. His most treasured goal was the Himalayas. Northern India borders the Himalayas so a mountaineering trip included sightseeing in the classic Indian cultural centers of Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Khajuraho, and Varanasi. He experienced the splendor of human and architectural achievement of which the Taj Majal is only one. Kathmandu in Nepal has a limitless collection of Buddhist, Tantric, and Hindu art. His hiking and trekking excursions could be a to-do list for any newcomer to the area: Kashmir in the Indian Himalayas, and Pokhara and the Mt. Everest area in Nepal. He also describes other adventure stops on a round-the-world tour: Chitwan National Park in Nepal (home of the royal Bengal Tiger) and the mountains of Kauai in Hawaii.

Visit Larry on his website at

Opelika Opiate (Austin Macauley, June 2023) by Vicki Kay Turpen.

Opiate — to induce sleep; to stupefy; to hijack the brain and change its normal function.

Opelika, Alabama — where cars, men, and race collide to unhinge the life of a young woman. Piecing it back together will require figuring out the role she played, and who she really is — or wants to be.

You’ll find Opelika Opiate on Vicki’s Amazon author page.

SWW Author Interviews: 2023 Releases

Marty Eberhardt
Bones in the Back Forty

William Fisher
The Price of the Sky: A Tale of Bandits, Bootleggers, and Barnstormers

Patricia Gable
The Right Choice

Cornelia Gamlem
The Decisive Manager: Get Results, Build Morale, and Be the Boss Your People Deserve

Joyce Hertzoff
Train to Nowhere Somewhere: Book 1 of the More Than Just Survival Series

Brian House
Reich Stop

T.E. MacArthur
The Skin Thief

Nick Pappas
Crosses of Iron: The Tragic Story of Dawson, New Mexico, and its Twin Mining Disasters

Marcia Rosen
Murder at the Zoo

Lynne Sebastian
One Last Cowboy Song

JR Seeger
The Enigma of Treason

Suzanne Stauffer
Fried Chicken Castañeda

Jodi Lea Stewart
The Gold Rose

Patricia Walkow
Life Lessons from the Color Yellow

R. Janet Walraven
LIAM: The Boy Who Saw the World Upside Down

Donald Willerton
Death in the Tallgrass

Linda Wilson
Waddles the Duck and
Cradle in the Wild: A Book for Nature Lovers Everywhere

Author Updates: E.P. Rose & Patricia Smith Wood

E.P. Rose and Patricia Smith Wood are examples of the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) who write in several genres and consistently produce excellent work for their readers. These award-winning authors each had one new release within the last year and have more than one interview posted on the SWW website.

Author, sculptor, and poet Elizabeth Rose (writing as E.P. Rose) has published three memoirs, a collection of poems and artwork, and a book of children’s verse. Her latest memoir release is When Cows Wore Shoes (2022) which has been called “a sensitive portrait in words and photos of hardship, poverty, loss, and longing of a time and place lost to history.” Visit Liz’s website at and her Amazon author page. For more about her work, read her 2015 and 2019 SWW interviews.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in When Cows Wore Shoes?
Romanticized maybe, harshly honest, the book describes the final years of a rural way of life during Franco’s reign that we can only dream of today. I’d like readers to think back to a time when man had no use for machines or money, a time when cows really did wear shoes, and people threshed grain on a communal village threshing floor with wooden sledges embedded with knife-sharp flint stones; where the only sounds were the calls of villagers and the sigh of the sledges sliding over the golden grain.

What led to your decision to spend eleven summers in rural Spain?
Stuck in London in the late 1960s, I had nightmares that if I were to suddenly die, my two boys would never know there were choices…other ways, other cultures to explore than chasing material success. The British Way was not the only way. London in July and August was no place for my 4- and 6-year-old boys to spend the long British school holidays. I wanted them to roam free, to have the freedom to develop their imaginations as I had as a child.

Sticking the proverbial pin in a map, we found Ruesga, a small mountain village in northern Spain. No electricity, running water, shops, and no shared language, the village boasted two bars, a church, mountains to explore, and a twenty-mile long lake to go swimming. It took time, but once we began working in the fields beside the villagers, and acquired a little Spanish, finally we were accepted. Embedded with Ruesga’s village people, we discovered the real meaning of wealth, success, and civilized. Through them I learned Small truly is Beautiful. Armed with my Kodak Box Brownie camera, though I had no idea at the time, my photographs captured agricultural methods and tools first recorded in the 3rd millennium BC.

Why did you write this memoir?
Mainly I wrote the book for myself, my boys, and for those of us who question aspects of the world’s modernization. Also, I wanted to remind us there are simpler ways to live. And I wrote the book for posterity. How pompous those words sound. But truth to say, by happy accident, When Cows Wore Shoes does indeed record a slice of rural history that ended with Franco’s death. In 1975, civilization happened. Electricity, plumbing, communication, transport, telephones, tractors, machines, bidets and television, and money, money, money catapulted Ruesga into the twentieth century. The Spain we knew was gone. So it may be that during our final summer in Spain—our village friends, my boys and I—may have witnessed the last threshing sled in use, the last field of wheat scythed by hand, and the last cow wearing shoes. Fields died. Lanes grew over impassable. Carts, sledges, yolks lay unused and rotting. Cows forgot how to work.

Do you have a favorite chapter in the book or did a portion of it affect you more than others as you wrote?
Maybe chapter 17, Juanna’s picnic or chapter 16, Juanna’s birthplace. Both illustrate the plus and minus sides of isolation. Then there’s chapter 18, Ignacio’s chapter, of course. His untimely and unnecessary death. And, and… As I recalled each detail, I relived what I have lost.

How did you go about choosing the title?

When I mentioned my time in Spain when cows wore shoes, people assumed I was joking. Then they became intrigued. That was it, I’d found the hook I’d been looking for.

Tell us how When Cows Wore Shoes came together.
Deciding how to marry factual information and the personal without sounding like a manual or travel book took at least two years to evolve. Thanks to Covid’s gift of time, I was able to edit, edit, and re-edit again and again. Fed up with incompetent and expensive editors, I decided I could edit at least as well as they did. It must have worked somewhat. When Cows Wore Shoes won first place in the Self-Editing category of the 2023 New Mexico Press Women Communications Contest.

A writer friend and I have met for two hours a week now for over ten years. Not to make nicey-nice comments, oh no, our critique of each others’ work is too often harshly to the point. A writer’s master class, we laugh. For example, we might ask…Went? Went? BORING. Did the person skip, slouch? And beautiful? What does the word “beautiful” really bring to mind?

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Seems I’m drawn to nonfiction. I really enjoy creating something readable without information dumping…thank you SouthWest Writers from whom I learned this lesson, and all I know about the craft of writing.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I’ve nearly finished compiling the short stories I’ve written over the past ten-plus years into a book—The Long and the Short and the Tall. Looking for a common thread to connect the stories, I realized the common thread was me. Each story reflects something that happened, an impression, a reaction I had as an immigrant to America. A separate page records a potted autobiography as an introduction. The short story follows.

Once my book of short stories is formatted and published, I’ll get back to writing the prequel to Poet Under a Soldier’s Hat (20,000 words along) titled A Raj Baby Speaks. Set in India, my autobiography chronicles the not-so-perfect life of a child born into the British Raj.

Also, once a month, I read at the Santa Fe poetry group open mic get-together at Theatro Paraguas. Recently I’ve focused on rewriting a prose story as a prose poem.

Patricia Smith Wood is the author of the Harrie McKinsey Mysteries. After publishing the fourth book in the series, she took a break from that genre to write a historical biography of her mother’s life. In 2022, Aakenbaaken & Kent released Raising Ruby: The Amazing True Story of a Twentieth Century Woman. You’ll find Pat on her website at and on Facebook and Twitter. For more about her work, read her 2015, 2017, and 2020 SWW interviews.

What do you hope readers will take away from Raising Ruby?
I have difficulty with the passage of time. It moves so fast, and I can’t keep up. When I realized the dawn of the 21st Century was now 23 years past, I thought about how many new “adults” had been born since then. I have the impression they don’t know much of what people dealt with in the 20th Century. If I could tell my mother’s story and liberally include the history of her time, perhaps these “new” adults would have a better understanding about older generations.

How much pressure did you feel to get your mother’s story just right?
I don’t think I felt pressure, but I did want her story written so the reader could understand the past. Unless people learn how different life was for their ancestors, they can’t comprehend the struggles, the hard work, and a raft of other issues they lived with. I particularly wanted my audience to know how different life was 100 or even 50 years ago. By telling Ruby’s story and intertwining the history she lived, I hope the reader will give the older generation some slack.

How did the book come together?
I first thought about writing her story within a year of her death. It took me another year to get serious about it and start writing. It took me about three years to get it done (what with researching historical events and editing). Aakenbaaken & Kent, the publisher for my mysteries, said they would like to publish Raising Ruby.

Tell us about Ruby, her flaws and strengths, and why readers will connect with her.
When you read her story, I think you’ll be impressed with her ability (at a young age) to stand up for herself. She never minded working hard, and she had definite ideas about how she wanted to live her life. She saw a vision for herself that her siblings and most of her other relatives didn’t understand. She taught herself how to do a lot of things, and she was never afraid of trying something new. Even as a child, Ruby knew what she wanted. That can be good or bad, depending on the situation. She grew up with a step-father who wasn’t kind and seemed to resent her. Her emancipation came early on, and she went out on her own. These were her strengths. Some of her flaws were fairly petty: impatience, trying to take on too many projects, and often being too critical of people who didn’t live up to her standards.

This historical biography is a departure from your Harrie McKinsey Mystery series. When did you know you wanted to write your mother’s story, and what prompted the push to begin the project when you did?
That’s a really good question! After finishing Murder at the Petroglyphs, I couldn’t come up with a story for the next book. That’s when I thought about doing a book about my mom and about the history she lived through. I had lots of stories she told me over the years. I also found a box of spiral notebooks. After she, my dad, and my little brother moved away from Albuquerque, she always kept a notebook on the kitchen counter by the telephone. She made notes to herself and my dad and brother. Soon, my brother and my dad did the same thing. I found a box of notebooks and spent hours reading. I found dates for events throughout the late 1960s and up until the late 1990s. It helped me be accurate about many of the things I wrote about.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for this book?
I was surprised when I kept discovering more and more things to write about. I really had to pick and choose because we did not want a 300-page book to publish with the cost of printing these days!

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m sort of torn. I feel a need to get another mystery out there, but I still haven’t found the exact mysterious element. So, I’m thinking of writing a book about my father’s side of the family. It’s still only an idea, and I might decide it’s too much to handle after going down that road with Ruby. We’ll have to wait and see where my muse takes me!

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: Jodi Lea Stewart

Jodi Lea Stewart is the author of four historical fiction novels for adults as well as an award-winning contemporary young adult trilogy (Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves). The Gold Rose (Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, February 2023) is her newest historical fiction release. You’ll find Jodi Lea on her website and her blog, on her Facebook pages at jodi.lea.stewart and AuthorJodiLeaStewart, and on Instagram and LinkedIn. Read more about her writing in her 2021 interview, visit her YouTube channel, and go to her Amazon author page for all her books.

The Gold Rose “is an international, clandestine rescue agency that operates under the auspices of a special group of people dedicated to fighting oppression wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.” What sparked the story idea for this novel that is classified (according to Amazon) as Crime Action & Adventure, War & Military Action, and International Mystery & Crime?
Since The Gold Rose is historical fiction, and because I wanted to place my characters in numerous places around the globe in the late 1930s through the early 1950s, I had no choice but to include what was happening politically and militarily during those years. Strangely enough, I was not a lover of history, especially war history, when I was younger. Now, because of the type of novels I love to write, I immerse myself in the history of wherever I place my characters. You might say I’ve been on my own personal journey of character development, proving that one must always be receptive to change. Winning a first-place award for War Fiction recently almost blew my mind, to be truthful.

Whose story did you find more enjoyable to write, that of Pinkie, of Babe, or of Charlotte, the agent tasked with saving the other two? Was one plotline more challenging to write than the others?
Honestly, I lived out every minute detail about Pinkie, Babe, and Charlotte. My desire was to show female characters defying the odds of whatever life throws at them. To make their journeys even more remarkable, I placed each of them in unusually susceptible positions.

For Pinkie, what can scream vulnerability more than a little two-year-old alone on an old country road during a storm, in shock, escaping a tragic scene? Who would find her? What lay ahead? I wasn’t going to let her trials end with the good people who found her that fateful night; she was going on to suffer a plethora of other people’s bad intentions. Bottom line… she would survive with dignity. I was going to make certain of that.

Babe was the strongest of all of them in that she would learn early in life that one’s comfortable circumstances might collapse at any time. Living in China during the Japanese takeover and the ensuing civil war presented her with a catastrophic life decision: was she going to crumble as she had after viewing a devastating tragedy and lose her voice for more than a year, or was she going to seek actual remedy from the behavior of people weak in mind or character? She decides to fight back, to never be a victim, and as she says, “Now, come and get me. I’ll be waiting!”

Charlotte had a wonderful childhood until her mother died and her father hired a surreptitiously evil nanny companion for her while he traveled constantly for his business. What she went through during the rest of her childhood made her realize later that those awful experiences “… shot me into the adult world with an over-developed sense of guilt, which when properly channeled, has the potential of becoming a burning desire to see justice fulfilled.” She became, from her sad childhood, a perfect candidate to be a ROSE agent.

To finish answering the question, no particular plotline was harder to write than the next one. The strings of the plot began to braid themselves into cohesion at some point in their creation, and I really don’t know how else to explain it.

The novel begins in Texas and takes readers to Mexico, Argentina, China, and Italy. With several storylines and multiple settings, how long did it take to plot and write such a complicated book?
I had the general idea of my main characters and of Charlotte being the “umbrella character” reflecting on her experiences as a ROSE agent, especially those memories pertaining to two of her favorite assignments, Pinkie and Babe. Charlotte had the honor of becoming the uniting force for this novel with her remembrances, her growth as a person on that long, cold night in Bangor, Maine, and eventually as the “older sister” type to the younger women.

A lot of my plots occur to me as I write the story and get better acquainted with the characters. I read about five or six books on subjects I’ll be covering before really writing much more than ideas for the book. That’s where I am right now with my ideas for novel number eight. After I begin writing for real, I use research books and the books I have already read until everything begins to fall into place. It took me a little over a year to finalize the entire plot for The Gold Rose to my satisfaction. I claim to be more of a rewriter than a writer because of my very strict inner editor.

What do you like most about each of your main characters?
In Babe, Pinkie, and Charlotte, it is strength and endurance; their ability to survive horrendous circumstances without bitterness or ruination of their later lives and personalities. It was important that each one kept her sense of humor, and they did.

I loved Luka and his crazy, youthful humor as he “pays back” his terrible tetka for stealing Pinkie. No matter how many times I read it, I double over laughing at his antics while driving his aunt through Mexico when she is nursing a horrible hangover. Clint and Cruz are combinations of every rancher, cowboy, and vaquero I ever knew. I understand them and gave them plenty to work through. Bonzini, the circus owner, is a father figure, first to Pinkie, and later to Luka because that is who he is. He is gifted as one of those men in life who bring peace, hope, and change when they are around.

At its heart, what is The Gold Rose about? When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
The Gold Rose is a mystery-drama about an international rescue agency operating in the 1940s that has, at its heart, people who desire to save those who cannot save themselves. Pinkie and Babe truly needed to be saved, but what lurks in the hidden recesses of us all? Do we need saving of one type or another? It is a story of secrets, deception, and dogged survival. It is a treatise of fighting back the bullies of our lives.

I hope readers will take away a renewed sense of their own personal power to use tenacity, grit, and humor to tackle any circumstances. I want readers to care deeply about overcoming adversity and never allowing adversity to overcome or define them for the rest of their lives.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am working on another international historical novel that features two women and a man on a quest to seek certain people around the globe to find missing stones that unlock an amazing and hidden door in Germany. They will be traveling to the Amazon, to Ireland, diving for freshwater pearls, and going down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on mules to seek a Havasupai Native American. It’s going to be quite an adventure!

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update 2023: Charlene Bell Dietz

Award-winning author Charlene Bell Dietz writes science- and historical-suspense mystery novels and short stories. In 2022, she stepped away from the mystery genre to release the historical novel The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor: Margaret Brent Pre-Colonial Maryland 1638-1648. You’ll find Charlene on her website at and on Facebook. Read more about her writing in SWW’s 2017 and 2020 interviews, and look for The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.

Why did you write The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor? Who are your ideal readers?
This all started from searching genealogy records where I came upon this passage: Giles Brent, a thirty-some-year-old man, married a nine-year-old Indian princess. What? Researchers branded Giles Brent as an opportunist set on acquiring land through this marriage. Then I learned this young Indian princess to be a ward of Governor Leonard Calvert of Maryland and his good friend Lady Margaret Brent, Giles’s sister and a spinster. I had to know more.

Diving into the Maryland Historical Society’s Archives, I found a treasure of a story, not about Giles, but  Margaret Brent. However, mystery surrounded Spinster Brent. She left no diaries, letters, journals, or other primary source material except for a Will and the 134 court cases she presented in pre-colonial Maryland. Dr. Lois Green Carr organized these case documents, recording Margaret’s court appearances. These revealed information about an incredible woman who would right all wrongs. I had to write her story.

Since the American Bar Association honors five accomplished women attorneys each year with their Margaret Brent Award, wouldn’t all women attorneys want to read and learn about this woman? Also, my ideal readers are those who like a dynamic story driven by the characters’ deep internal conflicts; historical buffs who want more than names, dates, and places; anyone interested in stories about unusual independent women who are the first and create change; and Maryland citizens and those who’s ancestors sailed to pre-colonial Maryland. This book inadvertently shows how some of our nation’s key founding principles came into being, so I believe mid to high school students would enjoy learning about early American history through my characters’ trails and errors.

The inspiration for your current book is obvious – Margaret Brent is a fascinating woman, not just for her accomplishments but because of the time period she lived in. Tell us about her, and highlight a few of what you consider her most important contributions to history.
Margaret seemed to be a driven woman. She wouldn’t let the norm stand. Her actions show she sought after what she knew to be impossible and remained intent on having a voice as strong as the men of her times. I don’t believe she was a feminist, but she knew power was in knowing.

During King James’s rule in 1600s, the Church of England had special prayer books for women. Being discouraged from reading the actual King James Bible would certainly infuriate women as devout as Margaret Brent. Knowledge required study, but England denied women much in the form of education. The records indicate Margaret may have secretly taught Bible studies, Latin, and mathematics to other Catholic women, all of which was considered a serious crime.

Once in pre-colonial Maryland, Margaret acquired a voice in court. Many gentlemen landowners hired her as their attorney, giving her knowledge, status, and power. Even though she asked for the right to vote (and was denied twice), as one of the largest landholders and as the Governor’s executrix, her integrity prompted her to do what was right for Maryland at great personal cost and forsaking her own desires. Her actions prevented Maryland from reverting back to Virginia.

This one accomplishment preserved some of our founding principles: our separation of church and state, the path forward for our great American dream of rising from nothing to owning land and being part of the governing body, and today’s ideals of religious tolerance. No wonder the ABA awards deserving women attorneys.

The title of the novel barely skims the surface of this woman’s complicated life. What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book — researching, staying true to the historical record, or filling in/fictionalizing aspects of the story never recorded?
The historical record is what it is. Before I even started, I knew I had to be true to the logical sources and events. I say “logical” because one of the most serious problems with researching is that something may seem like a fact, yet it’s only the result of a long-line of historians parroting what someone said, yet was never verified. This required me to start my researching years prior to Margaret’s story. I needed to know the geography, social mores, religious struggles, and politics of England. Then I needed to do the same for pre-colonial America, not just Maryland. After months and months of diligent study, I moved on to hunting for all references to Margaret Brent. I hit the jackpot when I found her 134 recorded court records in the Maryland Historical Archives. Excited, I had to learn where her friends, neighbors, enemies lived, who they were, what they did, and why had they been mentioned in her court records.

Since this story is completely written from Margaret’s point of view, the fictional part of the story flowed from having to tie events together or to give other eyes and ears to situations Margaret couldn’t personally know. The most difficult part of the fiction came from not hearing Margaret’s voice. But when I studied the 134 court cases she presented before Governor Leonard Calvert, I could hear her and came to know and care for her as a person.

Another challenge haunted me all the way though this story. Anachronistic errors (things, language, and events out of time and place) cropped up unknowingly. For example, I had no idea Governor Leonard Calvert had no gavel, nor had he ever heard of one. Gavels didn’t appear until the 1800s. Halfway through the manuscript it dawned on me I needed to check if gavels were used in the 1600s. Fingers crossed for my escape in using words and objects that don’t fit the time.

Why did you choose to focus on just ten years of Margaret Brent’s life?
My other three books (mystery and suspense) follow an adapted “hero’s journey” plot. Actually, I’ve adapted Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat method of plotting for my novels. This doesn’t hinder my sitting at the computer and letting my characters speak to me and do their things, but it does give them a framework for their exhilarating highs and struggling lows. For a reader to be engaged, a story can’t be a straight road of sameness. It needs a chaotic roller-coaster experience to evoke thrills and concerns. This book isn’t a classic mystery, but when I learned of the different events which occurred in England and in Maryland from 1638 to 1648, I knew history had provided me with an amazing roller-coaster plot placed in a neat, ten-year package.

What are some interesting facts you uncovered about Maryland in the 1600s?
When I visited St. Mary’s City, I learned that pre-colonial Maryland used tobacco for their currency and that most of the people went barefooted to keep from wearing out their shoes. The city called St. Mary’s City wasn’t even a town. It had a sturdy brick church and a mill but not one shop nor an inn.

Until the 1800s, Maryland (like England) had a strange law called Deodand. This practice of sacrificing inanimate murderers of humans, probably steeped in superstition, dates back to the eleventh century. English Common Law referred to the fatal offending object (or to a lethal animal) as a deodand. This meant animals and nonliving assassins of humans, or their worth, must be handed over to the king and to God. Deodand ended when the locomotive came into use in England, and the expense of turning over an offending locomotive to the crown became impractical.

The most intriguing facts came from discovering how some of our nation’s founding principles developed from Lord Baltimore’s creation of a religious tolerant colony in the New World. Needing healthy men and families to populate the territory, he required his landowners to apply the headright system. Indentured servants would be released after working off the payment for their ocean passage, with full rights of all other citizens. To help keep peace between the different religions, the second Lord Baltimore instituted the separation of church and state. This had been attempted in a northern colony, but didn’t last.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on a new series set in the late 1960s in fictional Duke City High School, located in downtown Albuquerque. In this mystery-suspense novel, and as a long-term educator, I create quirky characters based on former student encounters, letting my characters frolic around in a familiar but possibly deadly environment. I enjoy doing fast-paced, scary but witty mysteries. In the meantime, I’m writing articles for magazines and blogs. Here are links to two of my most recent articles published in Mystery and Suspense Magazine: “Perspectives on Creating Suspense” (May 9, 2023) and “Why Murder Mysteries Intrigue” (May 17, 2023).

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’m excited to reveal that The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor has been acquired by Artemesia Publishing and the second edition will be out the end of February 2024.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

2020 New Releases for SWW Authors #2

Parris Afton Bonds, Loretta Hall, Esther Jantzen, Dennis Kastendiek, and Paula Paul are a few examples of the dedicated members of SouthWest Writers. Each of these authors represents a different genre, but all pushed through the craziness of 2020 to see their work published. The releases in this post couldn’t fit into this year’s interview schedule, but look for interviews or updates for most of these authors in 2021.

A list of previously interviewed SWW authors with 2020 releases is included at the end of this post.

In The Barons (Lagan Press, July 2020), the second entry in the Texicans saga, New York Times bestselling author Parris Afton Bonds tells a tale of intrigue and loyalty stretched to the breaking point. Politics, plunder, passion, profit, and power collide in a new and bountiful land through the eyes of the Paladín family, a captivating, richly-painted cast of characters playing out their lives against the backdrop of history. Their loves, their desires, their perils and rewards — all rendered in service to create a new state in America’s southwest — take on an urgency and realism unlike any before.

With the third volume in her Texicans saga, The Bravados (Lagan Press, November 2020), Parris Afton Bonds weaves a spellbinding tale of love, hate, revenge, and reconciliation set against the milieu of the turn of the twentieth century. From the streets of Dallas to the oil fields of Louisiana and the blood-soaked jungles of Cuba, the Paladíns find themselves caught in the great struggle between the traditions of the past and the technologies that will shape the future. Can bonds of blood withstand such tides of change? What about the feuds of ages long past? With true-to-life characters, high drama, and painstaking authenticity, The Bravados is a masterpiece of epic romance.

Visit Parris at and on her Amazon author page.

Higher, Faster, Longer: My Life in Aviation and My Quest for Spaceflight (Traitmarker Books, 2020), by Wally Funk and award-winning nonfiction author Loretta Hall, tells the story of a unique American space pioneer. Since she was a girl in a Superman cape jumping off the family barn and stargazing from the slopes of Taos Mountain, Wally Funk has kept going higher, faster, and longer every time she saw an opportunity. She soared through the aviation program in college, landing herself a flight instructor position after graduation. From there, she set a record in astronaut testing. The scuttling of the Mercury 13 program didn’t stop Wally, who used her dreams to fuel an adventure-studded life. Traveling the world, shattering glass ceilings, and always keeping one eye on the stars, Wally relentlessly, joyfully reached higher, flew faster, and traveled longer on her way to space.

You’ll find all of Loretta’s books on her Amazon author page.

In September 2020, Esther Jantzen published WALK: Jamie Bacon’s Secret Mission on the Camino de Santiago, her first fiction book for children and young adults. This is the story of Jamie Bacon who’s angry at his parents for making him walk 500 miles in Spain as part of their homeschooling plan. He’s especially disappointed that his dad can’t come along, which means he’ll be alone with his mom and sister. But when Jamie meets Father Diego and hears the backstory of the Camino de Santiago, he becomes intrigued. And when he naively agrees to the request by two pilgrims to secretly carry a heavily taped envelope, unopened, all the way to Santiago de Compostela, Jamie is stuck with keeping his word and finishing the very long walk.

Visit Esther on her Amazon author page.

Dennis Kastendiek’s first novel, A Seven Month Contract at Four Thousand Per (September 2020), tells the hilarious story of Johnny, a small-town Kansas high school graduate who feels guilty after a prank results in his sister breaking a leg just before her community playhouse debut. Fortunately (or not), Johnny learned all her lines while watching her rehearsals. And when a talent scout passing through town sees a girl he thinks is the most gifted actress to be found on the plains in ages, shit really hits the fan for Johnny/Johnnie. Broadway, here he/she comes! Reviewers call the story “brilliantly written, with compelling characters” and “plenty of bumps and thumps to enlighten and delight.”

Murder is Contagious (February 2020) is Paula Paul’s sixth installment in her Alexandra Gladstone Mystery series. Several children have died in a measles outbreak in the village of Newton-Upon-Sea. Equally as frightening is what begins to look like an epidemic of murder that may be related in some way to the measles contagion. Dr. Alexandra Gladstone finds herself deeply involved in both threats. Not only is her own life endangered, but the lives of members of her own household are at risk. Her attempts to stop both epidemics are hampered by the reappearance of an old lover who threatens to reveal secrets from Dr. Gladstone’s past.

Visit Paula at and on her Amazon author page.

SWW Author Interviews: 2020 Releases

Connie Flores
Our Fascinating Life: The Totally Accidental Trip 1979
Sue Houser
BR Kingsolver
Knights Magica
Dr. Barbara Koltuska-Haskin
How My Brain Works: A Guide to Understanding It Better and Keeping It Healthy
Manfred Leuthard
Broken Arrow: A Nuke Goes Missing
Shirley Raye Redmond
Courageous World Changers: 50 True Stories of Daring Women of God
J.R. Seeger
A Graveyard for Spies
Lynne Sturtevant
Hometown: Writing a Local History or Travel Guide and The Collaboration Kit
Patricia Walkow
New Mexico Remembers 9/11

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: Charlene Bell Dietz

Before retirement, Charlene Bell Dietz never planned to be an author. But with so many stories to tell, after a long-term career in education and decades of volunteering, she devoted herself to learning the art of storytelling. She published the first novel in her flapper/scientist series in 2016 and the second in 2017. The Scientist, the Psychic, and the Nut (2019) is her newest installment. You’ll find Charlene on her website at and on Facebook. Read more about her writing in her 2017 SWW interview.

What do you want readers to know about the story you tell in The Scientist, the Psychic, and the Nut?
Sometimes we all have an inspirational moment of not knowing what we know. The Scientist, the Psychic, and the Nut takes readers on a dream vacation to the Caribbean with a bio-medical scientist and her rather neglected husband. Beth, an obsessive and inquisitive scientist stirs up an angry nest of islanders. She’s unnerved when she discovers some of her fervently protected truths may not be truths at all. Beth, up until now, has always defended the hard-cold evidence of science. Similarly when things are not as they seem, the impossibility of it all baffles her—such as poisonous fish that appreciate music, an old woman whose cups of tea change everything, and then there’s the business of objects and people reappearing in unexpected places. Beth, perplexed by the nut, struggles to merge her scholarly beliefs with these strange new events in her life.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
This story became a blending of four cultures: islander, voodoo, Rastafarian, and tourist. When each of these groups appeared and interacted with each other, I didn’t want to write my characters with stereotypical behaviors. I strived to unveil the unique humanism within each.

Tell us how the book came together.
My first two books (The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur and The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker), both stand-alones, had a central unanswered question concerning the main characters. I knew when I wrote the first book that this new book would need to be created. Essentially, while writing the others, I was thinking, plotting, and researching this third story. I guess you could say it’s been in my writer’s mind since the very beginning.

When I finally sat at the computer in July 2017 and started writing seriously on The Scientist, the Psychic, and the Nut, I was in the final stages of writing book two. It’s strange how this happens, but I never seem to only write one story at a time. However, before my books go to a professional editor or publisher, I have a critique group as well as a select handful of wonderful beta readers look them over. They are ruthless and don’t hesitate to send me running back to my computer. I’m forever grateful for their sharp eyes and high intelligence. With their help, the book was published in November 2019.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
There’s no counting the number of times and different ways I’ve experienced the magic of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, in September 2017 two category five hurricanes (two weeks apart), Irma and Maria, devastated many of the islands and some of the places in this story. When I started writing the book, the Internet showed Mad Dog Saloon on Virgin Gorda had been totally destroyed, and Little Dix Bay was pretty much wiped out. The charming Hotel 1829 on St. Thomas suffered severe damage.

With a heavy heart, I kept writing and checking the Internet. I started following blogs about people who may have been hurt or missing. Next, the lovely Hotel 1829 lost all its charm when someone turned it into a storage facility. I finally finished The Scientist, the Psychic, and the Nut and again, with heavy heart, checked the island news one last time. Someone had rebuilt Mad Dog and reopened it for business. A company had purchased Hotel 1829, and it’s now being restored. Reservations and rooms are being booked at the newly renovated Little Dix Bay. In some private, tiny magical way in my mind, my story helped participate in the rebirth of these wonderful places.

The titles for all your novels are intriguing. How did you choose the title for this latest book?
Ah, the titles! Conundrum comes to mind. It all started with the unending search for the title of my first book. This novel took forever to write, and in the final hour it still didn’t have an appropriate title. A solid title should tell the reader what to expect from the story without giving away the plot. The title possibilities left me totally flummoxed because this book had two story lines. One night, I sat next to the husband of a good friend at an awards banquet. He leaned over and said, “So, I understand your book is about a flapper and a scientist.” And—BAM!—there it was. I answered, “Yes, and a saboteur!” Not only did I have the title for this first book, I now had a format for the other two in the series: The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker and The Scientist, the Psychic, and the Nut. Right up front the reader knows the strange array of characters who populate the story as well as a hint about the plot. (I liked the word play for nut—it could refer to a person or to part of the plot.)

When did you know the story/characters were strong enough for a series?
Way back in 2005, I sent my draft of book one (under its first title Behind Smoke and Mirrors) to a New York editor. He came back with high praise for my characters and voice. However, he informed me I had three books in one. He told me the book would never be published in its current form and sent me back to my computer to do a complete rewrite. He also told me I hadn’t a clue about plotting. Plotting? Well, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. He offered to help me learn, but warned that writing novels or any book has to be out of pure love, not out of expectations to be published. He insisted all my characters, even secondary ones, needed to learn and grow throughout their journeys.

Right from the first, I knew my material would have the strength to become three books. This was validated when I learned both The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur and The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker had received Kirkus Starred Reviews and were named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2018.

Besides novels, you also write short stories. What is it about the short story form that draws you to it?
Writing short stories helps me focus. Whenever I puzzle over some plot point or some confusing concept that needs to be developed, or I just need time to think, I write a short story. Some of my award-winning short stories took me only a few hours to write—but days to polish. These short stories never have anything to do with my other works-in-progress.

Now that I’m forced to think about it, I believe it’s the control of the short story that attracts me. Every single word must be necessary. If it doesn’t drive the story forward, it needs to be cut. Still, you have all the elements of a novel to work with except for numerous characters, subplots, and multiple settings. Usually it doesn’t take long to develop the story, so there’s the reward of quick closure on the task. I have so many ideas, incidences, and exciting experiences dancing around in my head, it’s a relief to organize them, fictionalize them, and then corral them into something readable.

Which do you prefer: the creating, editing or researching aspect of a writing project?
Creating can be energizing as well as exhausting. It uses parts of the brain that require divergent thinking that must be presented in an intelligent, readable form. My books require abundant research, which I really enjoy. Except there’s always underlying fears with research: “Do I have it right? Have I left something important out?” Editing has many hats: looking for typos, misspellings, faulty word usage, grammar and punctuation, or plot holes. I detest this type of editing. I’m terrible at it and can’t spell worth a plastic banana.

However, I absolutely get lost in revisions. Revising is the whipped cream on top of it all. Thoughtful, mindful, careful revisions can make or break a good story. They help a plot flow more logically with a simple tweak such as moving a sentence or paragraph around. Reading the words out loud helps discover if the sentences are smooth and have an engaging cadence with the right tone. If the out-loud reading reveals rough passages, then rewording or finding a more powerful or correct word can make all the difference. Out-loud reading also lets the author actually hear the various characters speak. The last thing a book needs is all the characters sounding the same. Distinct voices can make the emotional parts of the story soar. If an author loves revision, the reader will love the book.

Tell us about your writing process or your writing routine.
I have no daily ritual. When I am inspired with an idea, I check to make sure it can actually be a good book. I do this by drafting a beginning (which always changes as I get into the story), and I draft the ending in my mind (because I want to know where I’m going but understand at this point the trappings of the ending will change). Then I do some research, if needed. When I’m satisfied, I start by jotting down several plot markers between the beginning and the end. If it’s a murder mystery, I can guarantee that the person I select to be the killer, won’t be.

And I think, research, and think some more. Long walks and driving helps this process. When the voices start talking to me, when I can actually hear the characters get emotional and discuss their conflicts and desires, I start to write. Halfway through each book, the characters wake me up in the middle of the night, screaming at me that I’ve got the wrong assassin. It happens every time. Unfortunately, they leave me to figure out who really dunnit.

What writing projects are you working on now?
My current project, a historical biographical novel, takes me away from the flapper-scientist series. Margaret Brent, one of thirteen children, was born in England in 1601 to an aristocratic Catholic family. She became a powerful-driving force to insure the security of Maryland. Today the American Bar Association still recognizes her accomplishments through a yearly Margaret Brent Award given to talented women attorneys who mentor other women. Little is known about her early life in England, and she left no diary or letters. As a spinster in 1638, she and a sister and two brothers sailed to the coast of Maryland to become part of the first 400 Englanders to settle there. Others share my questions about her: What motivated her to make the dangerous voyage across the ocean in a time when Catholics were prohibited to do so, probably on penalty of death? Why did she never marry? How did she gain the skills to present case after case (over 100 documented) to the Provincial Court and the General Assembly? Her aptitude to discuss political and legal matters reached the degree that Leonard Calvert, the Governor of Maryland, on his deathbed appointed her as his executrix.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?
If you’ve read a book you enjoy and want to show gratitude for the author’s work, there is no better way than to leave a book review. Authors love their readers, especially readers who let the world know how much they enjoy our stories.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Rhenna St. Clair

Rhenna St. Clair is an author, artist, and poet who practices Chinese medicine and acupuncture in northern New Mexico. She began writing her debut novel, Getting New Mexico, in 2016 and published it through Pace Press three years later. Anne Hillerman calls the book “part love story and part comedic hero’s journey…filled with quirky and diverse characters and unlikely situations right out of real life.” You’ll find Rhenna on her website at and on Facebook.

What is your elevator pitch for Getting New Mexico?
Getting New Mexico is a universal story about bad life choices, poor judgment, mean deeds one later regrets, and the desperate hope that we are still lovable despite those times when we are a tarnished version of our higher self. I love what is ridiculous, odd, and unpredictable about life and the characters we encounter while living it.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Blending my experience of life in New Mexico and what I knew of Pueblo people, with what I knew about East Indian culture and customs, was challenging but, at the same time, fun. I appreciate the mix of cultures in New Mexico and have never had more fun than when writing Getting New Mexico.

Who are your main characters, and why will readers connect with them?
The main character is a transplanted New Yorker, Aaron Schuyler. The love of his life, Anita Chatterjee, is a close second as a main character. I think readers will see something of themselves in those two (and the other characters) and will appreciate Schuyler’s interactions with all of them, as well as his moments of comic mistake or pathos.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the book?
I have lived mostly in New Mexico for twenty-eight years. I can’t imagine living anywhere else! The house Aaron Schuyler moves into in Getting New Mexico is the home I lived in north of Santa Fe, in Nambe. The old house has a unique feeling, and I tried to bring that out. I shop all the time at Sam’s Club, so that seemed the obvious place for Schuyler to land a job.

Tell us how the book came together.
Getting New Mexico began with a prompt in 2016 in an ongoing writers’ workshop here in Farmington. I thought about the prompt — Where’s the fun in a funeral? — and came up with a guy in New York City who is down on his luck through his own fault. To get a free meal and some booze, he crashes funerals. It was great fun, and the fun continued as Aaron Schuyler learned some lessons in life. I finished writing and editing around the end of 2017 (I should mention that I am a licensed acupuncturist and have limited writing time). I did several edits myself, not counting what I was asked to do by Pace Press. I signed my contract with them in summer 2018, and our published date was November 5, 2019.

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go?
I knew we were done when Aaron Schuyler had learned the hardest lesson of his life: if you aren’t there for your kids, they won’t be there for you. It was time to bring his saga to a logical but sad conclusion, and the chapters following that episode were some of the most fun to write. It was time to “put it in the can” as they used to do with old movie reels.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I had two favorite parts. The first one was writing the scene where Schuyler visits his deceased uncle’s bookstore. I enjoyed developing the bookstore atmosphere. Secondly, I very much enjoyed developing personalities for the secondary characters so that what they did in the story made sense and contributed to the main action.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
My list of favorite authors is endless, beginning with Charles Dickens—there is nothing funnier than The Pickwick Papers. Other authors include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Teilhard de Chardin, Edward Abbey, Anne Hillerman, John Kennedy Toole, Louise Penney, Michael McGarrity, Daniel Tammet, and Dostoevsky. These are just the beginning!

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
I would like to think there is a theme of strong women dealing with the challenges of daily life. Many of my stories take place in my old Nambe home which is the setting for Getting New Mexico.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
Death scenes. The finality is hard enough to grasp in life, let alone on paper.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have just finished a crime manuscript titled West Coast that is set in Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, and I am starting a manuscript about a librarian in Farmington, New Mexico.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I love to cook. I do oil painting. I can’t get enough of the beauty of New Mexico.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: Shirley Raye Redmond

Award-winning author Shirley Raye Redmond has published romantic suspense and historical romance novels, over 450 articles, and nearly thirty nonfiction children’s books. Two of her children’s titles have sold more than 200,000 copies each. Her newest nonfiction release is Courageous World Changers: 50 True Stories of Daring Women of God (Harvest House Publishers, 2020). You’ll find Shirley Raye on several websites (, StitchesThruTime.blogspot, and, as well as on Facebook. For more about her books, read SWW’s 2015 interview and visit her Amazon author page.

What is your elevator pitch for Courageous World Changers?
Faithful Christian women are salt and light in their communities. They all make a difference. But some have such a vibrant faith that—like a stone tossed into a pond— their influence ripples throughout the world. The fifty women included in this book fall into that category.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Some of the women in the book, such as Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton, have been written about so many times already. Many readers, even kids, would suppose they know everything about those women. I wanted to find little known facts about their lives that would make readers say, “Wow, I had no idea she did such-and-such.”

Tells us how the book came together.
The Harvest House editors sparked the initial idea and let literary agents know they were looking for book proposals on the topic. My agent gave me the heads-up and told me to hustle because many other writers wanted to take on the project. I dropped everything to put together my list of 50 women and a couple of profile samples. I was delighted when the publisher made me an offer. I was given 16 weeks to turn in the completed manuscript.

What makes this book unique in the children’s market?
Well, there are many books about gutsy women and even several about spunky Christian women. But I think my list covers a wider ethnic diversity—Chinese, African American, Filipino, Romanian, Dutch, British, and others. I selected women as far back as Catherine of Siena (who was born in 1347) to contemporary women such as Joni Eareckson Tada, who actually wrote a lovely letter thanking me for including her in the book.

Did you discover anything surprising while doing research for Courageous World Changers?
Oh, lots of interesting things! For instance, I had no idea writer Flannery O’Connor made “doll clothes” for her pet chickens. Or that one of the child prostitutes rescued by Josephine Butler in England eventually was placed in the home of Antonia Keville, the daughter of a wealthy British family, who eventually became a midwife, took Holy Orders and became known as Sister Monica Joan—yes, the same Sister Monica Joan in Call the Midwife.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I wanted to find quotations for each woman—something that revealed personality. For instance, on her deathbed, Katharina von Bora said, “I will stick to Christ like a burr to a topcoat.” I think that captures her spunky determination quite well. Harriet Beecher Stowe, while reflecting upon the enormous success of her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, said, “The power of fictitious writing, for good as well as for evil, is a thing which ought most seriously be reflected upon.”

What was your first reaction to seeing Katya Longhi’s cover and interior art?
I was delighted with the illustrations. Each portrait is colorful and friendly—I immediately noted all the smiles. And I love how Katya carries the artistic theme over onto the page of text. As the publisher arranged for all the illustrations, I did not know Katya nor was I familiar with her work. She lives in Italy, but we have since become “friends” on Facebook.

In your 2015 interview for SouthWest Writers, you said Patriots in Petticoats, Heroines of the American Revolution (Random House, 2004) was probably your favorite writing project. Courageous World Changers seems to be of a similar theme. What is it about these types of projects that draws you to them?
I love history and the thrill of the chase, digging up nuggets that others may overlook. It has proven to be a lucrative avenue of exploration for me as both of my first nonfiction titles for children were published by Random House and are still in print nearly twenty years later: Tentacles, Tales of the Giant Squid and Lewis & Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President—which became a Children’s Book of the Month club selection when it was first released.

What do beginning writers misunderstand about writing for children?
Many think writing for kids will be easy because the books are shorter. They don’t realize they still need a marketable story plot with character + action + conflict + climax + resolution. Even a nonfiction book like my Pigeon Hero! (Simon & Schuster), which is less than 600 words, still has a story arc.

Also, marketable books for children should tie-in to the school curriculum somehow. At least, that’s been my experience. Courageous World Changers is useful for teachers and librarians looking for something to use during Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Women in Science week, etc. When schools focus on a transportation unit in reading and social studies, teachers and librarians look for novels, picture books, and nonfiction titles about the Oregon Trail, trains, planes, and cars. I once had a lively picture book about Teddy Roosevelt’s reorganization of college football rejected because I’d aimed it at 5 to 8 year olds. The editor pointed out that young children seldom play football and elementary schools don’t sponsor football teams. Even successful fictional stories for kids often have a seasonal tie-in observed during the school year, such as Valentine’s Day or Halloween. When writing for adults, one doesn’t need to keep that sort of thing in mind.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: Patricia Smith Wood

Author Patricia Smith Wood credits her father, a career FBI agent, for sparking her interest in law enforcement and solving crimes. After retiring from a business career that included working at the FBI and owning her own computer company, Pat published her first of the Harrie McKinsey Mysteries in 2013. Murder at the Petroglyphs (Aakenbaaken & Kent, 2019) is the fourth book in the series that once again follows editor and amateur sleuth Harrie and her business partner Ginger as they attempt to solve a complicated murder. You’ll find Pat on her website at and on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about previous books in her series, read her 2015 and 2017 SWW interviews.

What is your elevator pitch for Murder at the Petroglyphs?
Are the Ancient Ones responsible for the body discovered at Petroglyphs National Monument? Why did Harrie McKinsey have a prophetic dream about it? Why haven’t the media in Albuquerque reported on this unexplained death? And why can’t the Albuquerque Police, the FBI, or the CIA discover the identity of the victim?

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I found myself doing a lot more research on this book than on the other three. Even though I’ve lived in Albuquerque since 1951, I had never visited the Petroglyphs until I decided to set the mystery there. Also, I’m not what you would call an “outdoor girl” type. I’ve routinely taken walks around my neighborhood, but hikes in the desert or mountains are not my bag. So I had to find a twist to anchor the story and justify using the Petroglyphs.

Tell us how the book came together.
It was actually my husband who suggested the Petroglyphs as a setting. I had just come out of the swirl of activity connected with the release of my third book, Murder on Frequency. I always think I can sit back and relax once a book is finally out there. But I immediately started being questioned about the next book and when it would be published. In the past, I had an idea at least. Not this time. So when my husband suggested it, I told him I knew nothing about the Petroglyphs. That’s when he picked up the car keys and said, “Let’s go take a look.” We spent most of our time at the Visitor Center and at the Amphitheater. I took many photos so I could have a picture in my mind while writing the book. It was also in a location relatively close to the George Maloof Air Park where model airplane and drone hobbyists gather to fly their machines. Since I wanted to include drones in the story (to satisfy some of my Ham radio buddies), that worked in very well.

It took me a little over two years to write. Then, of course, came the editing. That took about four months. In the middle of that two-year period, my 98-year-old mother passed away. We had all sorts of details to take care of and deal with her property and possessions. So that made it more difficult to focus on the book. The editing process is really the best part. You’ve finished the book—now you can “pretty it up” and make it shine (with any kind of luck at all!)

Who are the main characters in the Harrie McKinsey Mystery series, and why will readers connect with them?
Since the first book, The Easter Egg Murder, I’ve had the same six characters in the series. In the second book I introduced a new female police detective sergeant and I’ve kept her in every book since then. The main characters are Harrie McKinsey and Ginger Vaughn. There’s DJ Scott (an FBI agent), Steve Vaughn (Ginger’s husband), Caroline Johnson (DJ’s mother and Harrie and Ginger’s office manager), and homicide detective Lt. Bob Swanson (Swannie). The new “regular” added in book two is Detective Sergeant Cabrini Paiz. In book number three I introduce her husband and son.

I hope readers see Harrie and Ginger (who are somewhere in their late thirties or early forties as the books proceed) as women they might know and want to hang out with. I hope male readers can identify with the men I feature. DJ and Swannie are featured the most, and I really like them.

Is there a scene in the book you’d love to watch play out in the movie?
Actually there’s more than one, but I guess I’d pick the first chapter. It would have the most visual splendor. When I first wrote it, I included all sorts of descriptions about the sunset over the Petroglyphs on a lovely May evening, and the rising of the full moon over the Sandia Mountains. Then the park ranger takes a short walk around the area to make sure all is well. He encounters a coyote, and then discovers the body. That chapter, and its flowery and scenic descriptions, was radically modified by the editors at the publisher. They wanted a body to appear at the end of page one. Still, as a movie, seeing it would substitute for all the words they had to cut!

If your book did become a movie, who would you like to see in the roles of the main amateur female detectives?
Sandra Bullock (with hair tinted a deep auburn) as Harrie McKinsey. For Ginger, I’d like to have Geena Davis (with black hair.)

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Getting to read it to my critique group. They always had positive reactions and came up with some great comments and suggestions.

You began your fiction writing career later in life. What did your mature self bring to the writing table that your younger self never could have?
I’d have to say my mature self has a huge advantage over my younger self. I’ve lived an interesting life, with lots of interesting people, jobs, relationships and situations. I’ve experienced many ups and downs that give me perspective and appreciation I didn’t have as a young woman. I can use that stuff with my various characters. I’ve either been there, done that, or know somebody who has been there and done that.

What are the challenges of writing for the cozy mystery market?
That’s a great question but not an easy answer. First, the definition of cozy is very complicated in today’s world. Traditionally, one describes it as akin to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. The thread running through those stories is an amateur sleuth who solves a murder (which never happens on the page—only discovered there) and does so before the authorities can solve it. Nowadays, there are so many sub-genres of cozy it’s confusing. I heard someone recently imply an authentic cozy needs comedy, romance, and a protagonist who solves everything without the help of law enforcement. That’s not the sort of cozy mystery I write. In my mind, there’s no on-screen violence, the murder takes place off stage, there’s no foul language (there may be a “hell” or a “damn” now and then), and there are no sex scenes. I wanted my mother to be able to read my books without needing to chastise me. So one of the biggest challenges is explaining to people what a cozy mystery is—at least what MY kind of cozy is.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Katayoun Medhat

Katayoun Medhat was raised in Iran and Germany, studied anthropology in Berlin and London, and worked in an adolescent psychiatric unit. For her PhD in medical anthropology, she researched mental health and alcohol rehab services on the Navajo Nation in the southwestern United States. Her first novel, The Quality of Mercy (book one in the Milagro Mystery series), was inspired by her fieldwork on the Navajo Nation and won the 2016 Leapfrog Fiction Award. Lacandon Dreams (Leapfrog Press, 2019) is her newest book and the second in the series. You’ll find Kat on her website at and on Facebook and Twitter.

What is your elevator pitch for the Milagro Mystery series?
“The travails of Don Quixote recast in the Southwest featuring Milagro small-town cop Franz Kafka and Navajo tracker Robbie Begay” just about sums up the Milagro Mysteries. Against the backdrop of the rugged Southwest in all its natural splendor and cultural diversity, rebel with a cause (and unlikely cop) Franz Kafka aka ‘K’ confronts the demons and dragons of contemporary America—frackers, meth-pushers, gang-bangers, vigilantes—the good, the evil and the misguided. K has the help of Navajo cop and soul-brother Robbie Begay who has learned how to survive historic injustice without necessarily forgiving it and who has all the investigative skills and shrewd insight that K lacks.

“…a buddy novel, a work of history and collective and inter-generational trauma, a play with genre, from noir (…) to road movie…” is how the European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling reviewed The Quality of Mercy (Milagro Mystery I) and I am more than okay with that.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in book two, Lacandon Dreams?
An encounter with an environmental activist leads K to a quagmire of environmental destruction and corporate corruption which is tolerated—and perhaps even encouraged—by Milagro’s good ol’ boys’ network. K, still shaken by the tragic consequences of a previous case (The Quality of Mercy), finds himself once again on a solitary quest taking on the establishment, while also trying to solve the baffling disappearance of a model student. Robbie Begay, laid low after a shoot-out with meth-pushers, comes to help his old buddy K. Though Begay’s investigative methods do not always gel with K’s principles, together the odd couple uncovers a tangled web of deception leading to a ruthless vendetta involving Milagro’s upper echelons. Lacandon Dreams has some unforeseen and rather intriguing developments in store for K.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
This is my second book in the Milagro Mystery series, and as such the main challenge was to create a continuation between Lacandon Dreams and The Quality of Mercy without being repetitive or predictable, but also without disappointing returning readers who appreciated the particular setting, characters, and themes of the first book. Writing your first book you enjoy the privilege of innocence: everything is virgin territory (though that’s something you only appreciate, like so many things, with the benefit of hindsight).

Tell us more about Lacandon Dreams and how it came together.
Lacandon Dreams came out of a particular time. The 45th president had just come into office, and there was a lot of rhetoric that I, as a descendant of various peoples who experienced Diaspora and displacement, found very disturbing. I wanted to write something that charted the cultural diversity of the Southwest and that reflected a wide spectrum of histories and experiences. I wanted to write something that celebrated the invisible network of cultural roots that connects us all with each other. There is so much to be admired and celebrated here—and so much to be worried about too!

What sparked the story idea for the first book, The Quality of Mercy? When did you know the storyline or the choice of characters was strong enough for a series?
Fieldwork for a PhD left me with an enduring fascination with, and love of, the Southwest, in particular the Navajo Nation. I spent some time observing and volunteering in mental health services and in an alcohol and substance rehab program on the reservation where the ways in which history still casts its shadow on the present became quite obvious. Luckily the tribal ethos of community and communality is enduring and strong, as is the system of extended families and family support. The greatest thing for me was the Navajo sense of humor. Someone once told me, “Wherever you find a group of Navajo, you will hear laughing.” And this is true. During this time I heard so many stories and gained so many impressions that stimulated my imagination that trying my hand on a mystery became a tempting new challenge. Writing a PhD thesis you have to reign in and discipline your imagination. Writing fiction you are king (or queen) of that great realm in your head. It is so liberating! Once I started I found a whole new world of ideas for plots and storylines opened up. So I intend to keep on going!

Tell us about your main characters and why readers will connect with them.
My main character is Franz Kafka aka ‘K’ who suspects that his choice to be a police officer is so far from his natural sensibilities that it makes it akin to self-harm. K is a stranger in a strange land. He has plenty of hinterland, frequently feels out of place, but he has his principles for which he will fight relentlessly. He is a natural anarchist, and being subversive is his default mode. And he has a very keen eye for the absurd. Robbie Begay is a Navajo police officer and a preternaturally adept track reader who is the Yin to K’s Yang. Begay is robustly pragmatic, not to say an outright cynic. He is very perceptive and shrewd and provides grounding to K who is more of a dreamer. Most importantly Begay has a sharp sense of humor and deep psychological insight.

Begay and K are two characters who complement each other. They have a strong friendship, though neither would care to admit to this. They prefer ribbing each other and tend to express their mutual affection mainly through sarcasm, as many men do. The tenderness is all between the lines with these two. Together they are a pretty renegade team and often act out and challenge the establishment and subvert hierarchies in ways that most of us wish we could.

Why did you choose the Southwest as the setting for the books?
The mesas, the plains, the colors, the cultures, the never-ending sky, the peoples and their languages, history, history, history…I love it! And so much here reminds me of the country of my birth—Iran.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of writing this series?
Learning to trust my characters enough to let them go where they wished to. Really, characters sometimes escape your custody and do their own thing. They will go ahead and say things you had no idea they would. I sometimes marvel at K and Begay’s wit. They say stuff I could never dream up! And they make me laugh and sometimes cry. I once heard a famous writer say that whoever claims their characters talk to them needs their head examined—so be it! To me as a writer nothing beats having characters you supposedly created surprise you.

What inspired you to become a writer?
Wanting to write was an abstract thought. I always thought I would get to it at some point when the time was ripe. People used to tell me I should be a writer. By trade I am an anthropologist and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. These occupations involve observing, listening and (most of all) being interested in people—as does writing. One day somebody told me about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I thought, “Well, I’ll try that.” That’s how the first draft of The Quality of Mercy was born—50,000 words in two weeks. Compared to the torturous tightrope that was writing my PhD thesis, writing fiction was a walk in the park! I submitted an edited version of my manuscript to Leapfrog Press’s Fiction Contest, and The Quality of Mercy was their 2016 Contest Winner.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
That it is pretty lucky to get a starred review in Publishers Weekly with your first published book, which in turn will get your book into public libraries throughout the country, and that is a great privilege!

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
The world is dark and dystopian, but it will be the small acts of kindness that will save us. I’m not sure. But that could be one message. The other one is that laughter and tears go side by side and make up life. All is bitter-sweet or sweet-bitter, but there’s no avoiding either flavor.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am currently nearing the completion of the first draft of Milagro Mystery III. The working title is Flyover Country, though the final title may be different. I am very excited about the book. It is going to be pretty dark, I think—but these are the times we live in.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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